If you’re an avid Instagram user like myself, then you’ve likely come across Reels during your scrolling journey. The short-form videos have become one of the platform’s most popular forms of content since the feature launched in August of 2020. Despite them being relatively new to the app, it’s hard to imagine Instagram without them.
With so many trends and audio options available, it can be tricky to determine which ones are worth using in your Reels. That’s where the concept of trending audio comes in. By using audio that is currently popular on the platform, you can increase the chances of your Reels being discovered by a wider audience.
Although new features are being introduced all the time, from editing features and stickers to templates – the use of audio has been prominent since day one. With trends coming and going in the blink of an eye – we decided to put trending audio to the test and see how it really affects reel performance.
Here was our plan…
After some research, we decided to investigate how effective trending audio is – even if you can’t hear it. So, we posed the question, “Should trending audio always be used in the background, even if it’s turned all the way down?”
The aim was to make each test as controlled as possible so there are only a limited number of dependent variables that may affect the accuracy of the outcome. We decided to test this with the same type of reel each week to ensure there was a consistent layout, cover template, and topic.
It’s been news for a while that Instagram is pushing shorter-form content above all else, so it wouldn’t be a fair test to compare a 60-second-long reel with no trending audio and a 20-second-long reel with trending audio. So, we decided to post two batches of reels:
The first batch included:
2A: Podcast reel >30 seconds – without trending audio
2B: Podcast reel >30 seconds – with trending audio
The second batch included:
3A: Podcast reel <30 seconds – without trending audio
3B: Podcast reel <30 seconds – with trending audio
Each reel was to go up at the same time each week, with each caption following the same structure, call to action and same hashtags to further create controlled testing.
We realised it would be important to monitor the results periodically throughout the testing so we made sure to record the views, reach, likes, comments, shares and saves from each reel after 1 hour, 24 hours, 2 days, 5 days, 7 days, and 14 days.
So, what were the results?
With the constant evolution of social media algorithms, it’s important to understand what works and what doesn’t in terms of engaging an audience. The results showed us that while the addition of trending audio did not lead to a significant increase in overall views after four weeks, it did have an impact on initial viewership.
For example, reel 2B featuring trending audio received 670 views in just five days, compared to 495 views for reel 2A without the trending audio.
However, the data showed that reels 2B and 3B, which both featured trending audio, received fewer overall views than reels 2A and 3A, which did not feature trending audio.
Specifically, reel 2B gained 844 views compared to reel 2A’s 1,199 views. Interestingly, reel 2B had a higher Instagram reach of 368 compared to reel 2A’s 203, indicating that the trending audio may have helped the video reach a broader audience, but didn’t necessarily translate into more views. Additionally, reel 3B gained 965 views compared to reel 3A’s 1,285 views, but reel 3A had a higher Instagram reach of 280 compared to reel 3B’s 209.
One possible explanation for this could be that reel 3A featured a notable figure in the Australian AFL industry and mental health space, who may have reshared the reel and generated more engagement.
Results after 14 days:
Additionally, it is worth noting that a significant portion of the views in this study came from Facebook, due to the ‘recommend on Facebook’ setting being turned on in Instagram settings. This resulted in increased engagement and shows the potential of leveraging social media platforms to expand reach. By implementing similar strategies across all social media accounts, content creators and businesses can maximise their exposure and increase the likelihood of their content being seen by a larger audience.
Overall, while incorporating trending audio into reels may not have a consistently positive impact on overall views, it can certainly help to boost initial viewership, particularly for longer reels. However, it is important to consider the type of content being created and whether trending audio will complement it. Additionally, utilising social media platforms and their features, such as the ‘recommend on Facebook setting, can help increase engagement and expand reach. By incorporating these strategies into their content creation process, creators can improve the performance of their reels and reach a wider audience.
But most importantly, social media is not a one size fits all. So, it’s essential to keep experimenting and analysing the data to determine what works best for your audience and to keep growing your social media presence. Whether we get the results we expected or are completely thrown off, social media testing is a great way to learn about your audience and how the different platforms and algorithms work – because let’s be real, they are always changing!